John Hiatt's stripped down porch rocking country blues/folk ranks as one of his best albums and certainly a contender for the best roots/folk music album of the past twenty years. This is heady praise but well merited as Hiatt finally delivers what we've all been waiting for a warts and all swoop down the Mississippi Delta with his sweet laconic drawl accompanying the finest acoustic blues anyone has played for near on a generation - and that includes Dylan. There isn't a bad track on this deep, rich and evocative collection of bittersweet blues and the pared down arrangements work perfectly. As always with Hiatt you get great storytelling with themes of loss, love, redemption and the kind of world weary ennui that is genuinely heartfelt. That's not to say all is downbeat soul searching as uptempo tracks like the gospel flavoured 'Lift Up Every Stone' and the country styled 'Gone' add some light to the shaded corners of Hiatt's muse. Mostly Hiatt solo on acoustic guitar but with occasional banjo, steel guitar and acoustic bass the music is laid back but always inventive and sounds so refreshing it's hard to belief anyone can take the acoustic blues-blueprint of Lightnin' Hopkins and Leadbelly and inject it with such passion and genuine inspiration. I would rank this extraordinary album as the finest slice of genuine Americana since The Band's 'Music From Big Pink' or Tom Wait's 'Nighthawks at the Diner' - yes it really is THAT good and that authentic.
This is the kind of spit and sawdust blues that Clapton could never even imagine in a thousand years and with songs and stories so direct yet enthused with real lyrical richness Hiatt has delivered a career highlight and elevated himself above both Springsteen and Dylan recent 'roots' homages. Extraordinary and compelling and with such fabulous melodies this is one album you have to own if you're a fan of blues, country, folk or quality roots music. Released in 2000 Hiatt has made one of the best albums of the 21st century and no one will come close to it for a very long time. Or until Hiatt decides to revisit the blues again. Essential.